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The Research Process
- Understand Your Assignment
The first step in the research process is to understand what you are being asked to do. Are you asked to take a side on an issue (argumentative paper) or explain how something works (informational paper)?
Also be sure to note any guidelines your instructor has for types of sources that are required or recommended. For example many professors do not accept Wikipedia entries as a valid source for college papers. Many also may require that information be no more than 5 years old unless you are working with a historical topic.
For more info check out the "Understanding Assignments" guide from The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- Topic Selection
It can be overwhelming to select a topic. Try to find something that interests you - perhaps related to your career goals or personal interests. You can also make use of online lists like Crafton Hills College's "Suggested Topics For Research Papers". Keep in mind a single word or phrase does not equal a topic. Depending on your assignment you will need to word your topic as a statement or a question.
Example:You may start with "Tattoos" but your actual topic might be "The health risks of getting a tattoo and how to avoid them."
For more info check out the "Selecting a Research Topic" guide from Stewart Library, Weber State University
- Search Terms
Once you have your topic it is a good idea to come up with a list of possible search terms. You will start with the words you used to write your topic, but be sure to come up with as many other synonyms as possible. If you don't get many results when you first search the databases try using the other terms on your keyword list.
Example: If your topic is "How swine flu is affecting grade school children"
Possible Keywords: Swine Flu, Influenza, Flu, HINI, Hog Flu, Pig Flu, SIV, Children, Kids, Adolescents, Students, Grade School, Elementary School, Primary school.
For more info check out the "Listing Keywords" guide from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School
- Where to Start Searching
Where you start will depend on your topic. If you need an overview you may want to start with searching the library catalog for books. Books are also good for historical topics. Many college research topics are best researched using published articles. The library's General and Subject databases are great places to start. They include articles from magazines, newspapers, professional journals and scholarly journals. Many of the databases provide the full-text of the articles, but the 360 Link system can help you retrieve articles when they are not available full-text.
Use the "Find Books" and "Find Articles" tabs in this site for more information.
- Evaluating What You Find
All information you find should be reviewed to ensure that it is quality information. Check to see that it is up-to-date, written by experts/professionals, and is relevant to your information needs.
For more info check out the "Evaluation" guide from Purdue University
- Cite Your Sources
Use the 'Cite in MLA Style' tab in this guide for help citing your sources.
Academic Integrity (Quick Clip)